Karen CovellPTHHow Progress to Health is adapting to a new environment

For most of us, the world has changed - profoundly. Perhaps surprisingly, for some others, the world may have changed less so. For many whānau lack of mobility, poor access to bright-lit shopping malls, disconnection from others - “isolation” is closer to some kind of normal.

We have heard of all sorts of ways that services can be run. Many services adopted to increased use of FaceBook, WhatsApp, Instagram and a multitude of other online platforms. In some cases, we have even heard of services that have managed to get hold of devices and data for whānau to access these apps with.

An interview with Karen Covell, CEO of Progress to Health (pictured to the right) indicates what impact Covid-19 had upon their services and whānau.

Progress to Health describe themselves as “a Non-Government Organisation that has supported people with their mental health, or disability for almost 25-years…. Funded by the Ministry of Social Development, Waikato District Health Board and Taranaki District Health Board, Progress to Health supports around 900 people each year, with community-based services throughout the Waikato, Taranaki and Taupo… [Their] team are flexible, inclusive, responsive and passionate about the work [they] do.  [They] can help you develop your own personal plan and suggest activities, training and events to help you succeed.”

Karen said that lockdown (since 25 March 2020) meant “BAU as best we could for those we provide services to.”

In the first hours leading up to the lockdown, Progress to Health contacted all clients to discuss that lockdown meant:

  • All staff would be working from home
  • There would be no physical presence, meaning that services would be provided via:
    • Phone
    • Text
    • Skype
    • WhatsApp
    • “whatever we could find”

They worked to establish what supports were available to each person at home, who were in their bubbles, what their neighbours, families, etc. were doing, to identify their networks and the likely demand on the service.

When asked about those without devices/data. Progress to Health has identified lower-cost data packages and, ultimately, can assist their whānau to meet the cost of those. Similarly, they can assist whānau to meet the cost of flu jabs.

Traditionally Progress to Health has been a one-to-one service, but Karen advised that they were looking for opportunities to identify common areas for support and whether Progress to Health might be able to facilitate that through online groups, or similar.

Karen described examples of the “brilliant resiliency” that she and her colleagues had seen. Through a weekly mail-out, Progress to Health is encouraging their whānau to share their stories. These might be hobbies that had maybe been on hold for a while or learning new skills. Karen described one example of someone who had always wanted to do yoga. Her keyworker found some online yoga sessions and now they both do those! The workers are encouraging each other and their people to think outside of the box – which ultimately, is what recovery and resilience is all about!

“We are all creating new norms here. We are creating communities without barriers, which is Progress to Health’s aim. So, this [Covid-19] barrier, our biggest barrier perversely may be our biggest opportunity!”

In terms of working with her colleagues to ensure worker wellbeing at this time, Karen advised  that each morning, there is staff-time, A half-hour Zoom catch-up, with no agenda, where people can just chat about what’s on top. On the day of the interview, the kaupapa had been how to change the background in Zoom. Other times it has been more about how people are doing.

It really is encouraging to see Progress to Health, along with all the other services out there, working creatively with the whānau that we serve. With all its awful impact, Covid-19 has made us do more than just think and talk about what we do, and how we operate. It has forced us to move forward in ways that whānau have actually been asking us to. The hope is that we remember this when the bubbles eventually lift and that we continue this process of innovation.

Thank you for your time and energy, Karen and thank you to the service that you represent.

Progress to Health can be contacted in the following ways:


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